[Amber Side note: during this takeover, there are times when more than one person is talking. This is your handy guide to figure out who. Atlas [Amber] It won’t really let me change the font at all, so this is how we decided it looked. Anything that’s just bold, is probably questions, which are also technically from me. Also, this version of Atlas is from the end of Blood Song, Book 1 of The Bluebird Chronicles due out July 20, 2023. Thanks!]
Greetings and salutations, my name is Atlas Rivers and I am one of the two sages in Territory Three. I will be taking over today and answering some questions. I hope you enjoy. Have a wonderful day.
Full Name: Atlas Fox Rivers, though this was not the name I was given at birth, it has been the name I’ve used since my second life began.
Nickname(s)/Alias: I’m not sure I have any, besides my title, but that’s not really an alias.
DOB: April 6th
Zodiac Sign: Aries
Height: 5′ 11.5″
Eye Color: Brown
Hair color: It used to be a lovely dark brown, but I prefer the salt and pepper gray I go with now. It suits me.
Race: Eldritch Demon [What is that? Can you explain it?] An eldritch demon was born a human, either a Karhu or an Arkane, that is turned into a demon. It’s a complicated and long process that takes the better part of a century to complete. Though not everyone turned actually completes the process.
Location: Southern Illinois.
Profession (if any): Sage in Territory Three.
Family: While I count Reid, Asher, Eli, and Becks among my family, I do not have any true family left. They’ve been gone a long time.
These are the photos you asked me to provide. [Thank you. Would you mind telling us about them?] Of course not. #2 – My favorite food is a creamy prosciutto pasta. Last time I made it with peas, I don’t think I’ll do that again. Finley agreed they were not a good addition. #5 – This is the lock screen on my phone. Though I don’t know why that would be interesting. #11 – Though it may not seem like much, the most interesting thing I own is this pocket watch. It was given to me by Annabeth once upon a time. #14 – The last date I went on, we ate dumplings and had a wonderful time. #18 – My bad influence friend is Ivy Herrick, the other sage in this territory. She is always trying to get us into trouble when we go out. #24 – This is a photo I recently deleted. I was out in the woods with Asher and I was attempting to catch a picture of a bird but I was walking and I tripped, so the picture was blurry. I got a better picture right after so I deleted this one. #29 – The person I’d like to see everyday is Annabeth. I miss her dearly.
Answer these questions:
Name one weird thing you like.
Being barefoot. I’m not particularly fond of shoes.
Which do you prefer? City or Town?
Town. I like being around people, but I also like being in nature. Where we live now is a perfect compromise on that.
What has been the hardest thing for you to face or learn?
Losing my Twin Flame and learning to live without her.
Who is Annabeth?
Annabeth was my Twin Flame. Though I don’t particularly want to speak too much on her. [That’s fine. Thank you for sharing that much.]
Losing one of my “children”. I consider Asher, Reid, Eli, Becks, and the rest to be my family and I would hate to lose one of them for any reason.
Who is your favorite person that you have the misfortune to be around every day?
Misfortune, that’s funny. Probably Asher or Reid. I love watching them grow into better men.
Honestly, do you like your life?
I love my life. It took a long time to accept it, but I do love it.
Do you smile at strangers?
Yes. I believe in bringing joy to the world and a smile could make someone’s day.
I know that vampires can’t get drunk, can you?
Yes, but my tolerance is pretty high. It would take quite a bit to make me drunk. However, there are other interesting consequences of drinking too much. [Such as?] That my dear is a conversation for another day.
Do you lie to yourself?
Are you a lazy person?
No, I’m comfortable.
Who was your first love?
A spicy number named Avalon, though I cannot remember much about her besides her name anymore.
What makes you laugh?
The sarcastic assholes that I’m constantly surrounded by.
What did you do before you were the Sage?
What everyone else did prior, try to live my life I guess. I did work for the previous Sage for a bit and enjoyed it.
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
Take a vacation at home and buy some expensive scotch.
Are you selfish?
To an extent. But I think everyone is like that, depending on the situation. I do try to be as giving and as open as I can though.
What time do you wake up in the morning?
7:30. Or 9. Depends on the day.
What is the toughest part of being Sage?
Being fair. Not picking favorites. Being hard on those that serve under me, even when I don’t want to be.
What did you think the first time you met Bailey?
That she was soft and sweet and perfect for Asher. Also that she probably had no idea what she was getting herself into.
What’s one item you can’t leave home without?
I have a worry stone in my pocket at all times. It’s a small piece of Tiger’s Eye that I keep with me always. It’s quite a bit smaller than it used to be, but I love it. It was a gift from the Sage I used to work for.
What’s your favorite animal? And Color?
I like big cats. The lynx is my favorite. Reid would tell you my favorite color is Khaki Brown, though it’s actually turquoise, like the stone. I like the brightness of it.
Thank you for tuning in. I hope you’ve had as good a time as I have. Have a wonderful day. Goodbye.
[That’s all for this month’s character takeover. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to leave questions in the comments and I’ll make sure Atlas answers them. Have a great day my friends. Be safe, make good choices, and don’t eat yellow snow. Happy New Year.]
[Amber Side note: during this takeover, there are times when more than one person is talking. This is your handy guide to figure out who. Reid Asher[Amber] It won’t really let me change the font at all, so this is how we decided it looked. Anything that’s just bold, is probably questions, which are also technically from me. Also, this version of Reid is from the end of Blood Song, Book 1 of The Bluebird Chronicles due out July 20, 2023. Thanks!]
Hello. My name is Reid and I guess I’m taking over today. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but Amber let me have full reign, with some guidelines. First, I have some questions I have to answer, then I had to provide her with some pictures, and apparently there’s a brief one-shot at the bottom of all of this about me and the first time I met the Territory Four Crone, Freesia Wolfendale. First, let’s get some basics out of the way shall we?
Full Name: Christian Reid Walker
Nickname(s)/Alias: Reid, I guess. Prince of Paris, Papa, and, my favorite, Crow.
DOB: October 28th. [What year Reid?] Depends, when I was born as a human? Or when I was turned into a vampire? [Both I guess] Fine. October 28, 1876 was the day I was born to my Ma and Da in Galway. I was turned into a vampire on July 22, 1896 in Paris. My maker is Akina Rue, the sage in Territory Two of the European Arkane Alliance. I hate her. There, happy? [Yes. Thank you.] *rolls eyes and mumbles under breath* …creators…
Sexuality: Mostly straight. I’m old. I’ve experimented. Didn’t hate it. Deal.
Zodiac Sign: Scorpio
Eye Color: Blue
Hair color: Like a dark auburn? It looks brown most of the time unless I’m in the sun. And yes. I have a few freckles. On my face. On my arms. They’re there. Do not attempt to play connect the dots or I’ll introduce you to the lovely daggers I got as a birthday gift.
Location: Territory Three of the North American Arkane Alliance. [Specifically Reid…] Southern Illinois. Are you happy? I thought I was taking over, go away.
Profession (if any): Executioner for Territory Three; Working for Sage Rivers
Family: Daughter, Emma Walker (20); Sister (through my maker), Echo Kingston (339); Niece, Aria Kingston (21); Grand-mère (don’t ask); and I guess Akina qualifies as she is my maker but I’d rather not count her.
I guess I should explain these pictures right? [Yes.] Fine. #1 – My favorite picture is of Penelope laughing. Do I really need to explain why? #10 – My dream vacation – the beach again with Penelope. I’d like to do it right this time though. #11 – Coolest thing I own is a vintage Indian Motorcycle. I restored it myself and am quite proud of it. I don’t ride it much though, the parts are hard to come by. #16 – My next adventure would be children. I want more of them. I don’t have plans for that currently, but that’s the next adventure I’d like to be on. Fatherhood where I’m not running and hiding is probably different. I want to experience that. #17 – My best friend is Asher Jameson. Of course it is. There are others as well, like Annistyn, Shiloh, Becks, but Asher is the one I’m closest to. Despite his annoying personality. 🙂 #27 – My Grandmother is the person I miss. She died before I went to Paris. I was her favorite. #29 – The person I’d like to see everyday is Penelope. I thought maybe Emma too, but my daughter wants her space and that’s fine. I think. I don’t like it but I can’t do much about it either.
Answer these questions:
What is one thing you regret doing?
Not checking on my family sooner.
What celebrity do you want to be best friends with?
I’m not sure, but it isn’t Pretty Boy Noah Meade. Hate him almost as much as Akina.
What strange habit do you have?
I don’t know, ask Asher. He pretends he doesn’t give a fuck, but we all know he does. He also likes to play the martyr. Fuck off Ash. Love you too Reid.
When did you and Asher become friends?
Too long ago. I need new friends now. Fine. The 1950’s. I killed his maker as they were passing through the EUAA. Ash hadn’t done anything wrong, so I took him back to Paris with me. He was a fairly new vampire and he needed a mentor. I introduced him to Shiloh when Akina sent him away six months later. Yeah, when she figured out she couldn’t manipulate me like she could you. Yeah, yeah. Shut up.
What makes you feel better?
A good bottle of bourbon. He takes baths. Go the fuck away Asher or I will put Nair in your shampoo again.
Did you have a mentor?
Sort of. I was trained by my maker, but Shiloh would qualify as my mentor if pressed.
What’s your relationship status?
It’s fucking complicated is what it is.
Thoughts on love at first sight?
A year ago, it didn’t exist and was made up nonsense from fairy tales. Despite knowing multiple people with Twin Flames….. I swear to the gods Asher, if you do not get the fuck out of here…. Going [and now?] Now I believe in instant connections. Love comes later.
Do you have a Twin Flame?
I do. [you wanna elaborate on that?] No.
Do you consider yourself to be a good person?
Yes I do. Most of the time. More Chaotic Good if I’m being completely honest.
What’s the coolest moment in history that you’ve been alive for?
The big Vampire Reveal back in 1903. I’d apologize again but it seems to have worked out in our favor if I’m being completely honest. [How did that happen anyway?] That is a story for another day.
Have you ever gotten high?
There are ways for vampires to get high. Arkane drugs are potent sometimes. So yes, I have been. But not since I left Paris.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
One summer day, my ma took me, Cian, Muirne, and Meealla all down to the creek to play. She was supposed to be doing the wash, but she ended up splashing in the water with us and helping us find different creepy crawlies. Cian and I were 8 I think. It was a good day.
Are you scared of heights?
I am not afraid of anything. Liar If you don’t go away I will tell Bailey about that one time in Germany…. Actually leaving now…bye
What Vampire Rank are you?
Everyone assumes I’m an Astrum who’s never applied to be a Dominum, but I’ve been a Dominum level for longer than I should have been.
Why do they call you the Prince of Paris?
It just kind of stuck. I’m the last of the Princes in the Arkane Royal Family, and for just over a century I was based in Paris. No matter where I go in life, Paris will always be my city.
Do you remember your dreams?
No. I’m not even really sure that I do dream.
What is your most used swear word?
Some version of Damn or Fuck. Especially in reference to Asher.
What’s the first app you check when you wake up?
Weather. I don’t always feel the temperature like a human would, so I need to know how to dress to blend in.
What is the coolest piece of technology you’ve come across?
A tablet or smartphone. It amazes me the things you can carry in your pocket these days.
What’s the strangest thing you believed as a child?
Cian once convinced me that I was a changeling child that my parents kept. Believed it for almost two years. Was too afraid to ask my ma. I got in trouble at church one sunday and was convinced they were going to send me away. Da was not happy with Cian, I’m not sure what happened in the shed that afternoon, but Cian wouldn’t look me in the eye for hours.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
Prince of Paris. [Reid…] No. that’s my answer. No more questions. [Fine. Say goodbye to the nice people and I’ll share the story of you and Flower.] Deal.
Well, it’s been fun, but I have to leave now. I’ll be back to annoy Asher when it’s his turn because turnabout is fair play. Enjoy the story of how I met Flower back in the 80’s when she first became the Territory Four Crone. I was in New York City at the time, because I had done something to irritate Akina. It was a turning point for me. She helped me see that maybe there was another way, that I didn’t have to be exactly what Akina wanted me to be, that I could be more. When I fled with Emma, she was the first person I went to. I can never repay her. So now, thirty-four years later, when she asks me for things, I always do everything I can to help her.
Enjoy the story. I’d say it’s been a pleasure, but at best it wasn’t horrible. Sorry, I’m kind of a solitary vampire and I prefer to be in my garage or reading in my room. Good day.
An Excerpt from the (so far unpublished) Flower Novella
Prince Reid Walker drained the last of the blood from the bottle he was currently drinking, and tossed it into the backseat of the Jeep. His supply was getting low and he’d have to remember to pick up more if he could find some in Coldwynne. If he couldn’t, well he’d just have to Drift home while Freesia was in meetings. He glanced next to him to find the woman in question sleeping peacefully as he drove through the night. He still didn’t understand why she insisted that they drive between the smaller Arkane cities instead of drifting, but he wasn’t one to question the assignment he’d been given.
Freesia Wolfendale was the youngest crone in Territory Four history, having been awarded the title at just thirty-one. She still had small children at home, but here she was gladly accepting one of the most notable titles in the Arkane world. Reid was no idiot, he’d done some research when he’d been assigned the job by Damon Dethantos, one of the territory sage’s. The one he’d been assigned to after his latest exploit in France had angered his maker. He couldn’t wait to be done with this and hopefully beg Akina’s forgiveness and get to go home. He missed Paris and his privileged existence.
It wasn’t that Freesia hadn’t become delightful company, it was just that she was starting to poke holes in the role he played and he wasn’t sure he liked the churning feeling in his stomach that it often caused. He shook his head and concentrated on the road. Driving through the backcountry in Canada wasn’t something one should lose focus on.
They arrived in Coldwynne about an hour after the sun came up and he was more than ready for a warm bed and a chance to rest. They’d left after she’d had dinner the night before with some dignitary or other, they were all starting to run together in his mind. These small minded Arkane, some of them didn’t seem to see the vision Freesia held for the future, and he was annoyed, even if he didn’t personally see it. He hoped that the two day visit with Galvan Asherock would prove more fruitful for her. It made her better company at the very least. After this it was off to Newfoundland to visit the other Territory Four Sage and the last school on the trip.
Reid woke sometime in the early afternoon, feeling groggy and a little disoriented. He got up, showered and went to find Freesia. They’d both been given rooms in Asherock’s home and Reid had wasted no time getting some rest. He wandered down the stairs, subtly listening for the sound of Freesia’s voice. He didn’t hear her at all on his way out to the Jeep for a bottle of blood, which he’d kept there. While he downed his first bottle, he looked around the area a little better. It was beautiful here, and he would have liked a couple of days to just relax and enjoy it, maybe have Annistyn up to visit, he hadn’t seen her in a few months. Tossing the empty bottle with the others, he grabbed a second and went in search of his charge.
Freesia Wolfendale had been surprised to find out that her name had been in the running for crone when the latter had decided to vacate. She’d met him a number of times and thought he was interesting enough, but stuck in the past. He’d been crone for almost forty years. So when she’d been called to appear before the council, she’d been taken aback to find she’d been his choice. She’d done as best she could with the council and then waited to hear back, thinking they would never pick her. Once they had, she’d immediately dived into a plan to get Territory Four moving into the future. The new century was on the horizon and she wanted them to be ready. The first part of this plan was to go out and meet with as many people as possible. That included the sages, of course, but also included the lords, ladies, and those running the smaller communities. Helping the Arkane keep quiet in cities full of Karhu. To visit the schools, to ensure their children were receiving the best education. She wanted to know what she could do to help achieve the smaller goals these places had.
She hadn’t been overjoyed at the appointment of a bodyguard and chaperone in the form of Reid Walker, vampire and the Prince of Paris. How was she supposed to get to know the territory she represented for what it truly was if she had a member of the Arkane Royal Family following her around? She’d been pleasantly surprised to find him not as stuffy or arrogant as she thought he’d be. Though he did have some very backward thinking about some things. She hoped she could get him to think for himself a little more, if nothing else. They’d been on this trip for two weeks and were almost done with the Canadian portion and only had a couple more stops before they toured the American side.
So far Freesia had found the leaders to be a frustrating mix of old school, and forward thinkers. She was hoping to inspire those that weren’t convinced of her vision to at least give it a try. She wasn’t sure she was successful yet. Reid seemed to think she was, then again, she wasn’t sure she could trust his opinion just yet. He still seemed very young in a lot of ways, especially for an eighty-eight year old vampire.
“Freesia, I have to tell you, that although some of your plans seem like they will indeed help send us into the next century on the right foot, I’m not sure how you’re going to garner the support to do so.” Galvan Asherock told her, leaning forward in the chair he was sitting in on the dock near the water. Freesia was near him in a similar chair, looking out over the horizon. She wished Calkin and the children were here, they’d absolutely love this.
“Lord Asherock, while I’m sure that garnering support will sometimes be difficult, make no mistake, as crone it is well within my rights to enact change without the approval of any council.” She told him, lifting her drink to her lips, grateful that her voice had remained steady.
“Now, that isn’t necessarily true. There are many things that have to be approved by the council, and I know the members on this one. Many of them are going to argue that too much change too fast isn’t good for the Arkane or the Elentori.”
“I think you’ll find more people will agree than they won’t. I would like to work together and find ways that work for everyone. Karhu technology is changing rapidly, who knows where we will be in twenty years. We need to be prepared for that before it becomes a problem.”
“Now that is something we can agree on.” He said nodding and leaning back in his chair, seemingly content to dismiss the conversation for now. Freesia took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She hoped Reid would be awake soon, she desperately needed intelligent conversation. As if summoned, she heard his voice a few moments later.
“Everything okay, flower?” He asked, making his way down onto the dock, a half empty bottle of blood in his hand. Freesia had been disgusted at first, but very quickly had gotten used to this way of feeding for him. It’s what he seemed to prefer and had made it clear he wasn’t going to change that, and she agreed it was better than the alternative.
“I’m good, Reid. Did you get enough sleep?” She asked as he nodded to their host and took the seat closest to her.
“It was adequate. I’m headed into town for a supply run,” he shook his bottle back and forth a little so she’d know exactly what he meant. “Would you like to come along?”
“That would be nice. I’d like to get to know some of the people, see their daily life.” She said standing, leaving her half empty glass of beer on the small stand between where she and Lord Asherock sat. “Would you mind dearly if I took my leave?” She asked, looking at the man in question, old fashioned or not, it was rude to be disrespectful to her host. She may need his help one day and it wouldn’t do to make enemies only a few months into her run as crone.
“Go ahead.” Galvan told her with a wide grin. “I have some paperwork I need to attend to before the dinner tonight anyway. May I recommend lunch at Backlane, and a coffee at Jackie’s. They’re the most popular places in town and you would have a chance to really get to know the people here in Coldwynne there.” He offered. Freesia smiled before she turned and took the arm Reid had offered to help her up the hill.
“I’m not sure I’m going to like that man.” She confided as they walked through the little village. So far it was quaint, but she hadn’t seen a lot of diversity here. Mostly water and wood Arkane. A few earth, but almost zero Elentori seemed to live in these parts.
Reid shook his head, but smiled. “Well, hopefully you can count on him as an ally, whether or not you like him.”
“He seems ambivalent. He wants to sound supportive but also to warn me that I will have a lot of trouble with the council.” Freesia scoffed. “As if they have to approve every decision. Major policy changes, yes, need to be run through the council, but not every decision.”
“Then don’t worry so much, flower, you’ll be fine.” She smiled up at him. He was so much taller than her. He was over six foot and Freesia was lucky if she made five five in heels. She liked that he’d started calling her flower, two days into the trip. When she’d asked about it, he’d just shrugged and smiled. She noticed he assigned nicknames to almost everyone though, especially if he seemed to like them.
“I’ll try. Now, let’s find this restaurant and see if we can find someone who can tell us where to get the supplies you need.” She smiled and took his arm again as they made their way further down the main drag.
The dinner was nice, and Reid felt himself melting into the background as much as possible so he could watch Freesia work the room. She may be young, but she had an aura that demanded the respect of not only her title, but of her other accomplishments as well. She seemed to know intrinsically when to be the devoted mother, when to be the steely crone, and when to be something in between. It was like watching his maker work, but with softer edges. His maker always seemed to have an agenda, but Freesia seemed to just genuinely be able to handle the pressures.
Everyone seemed to be waiting to see if she would rise to the challenge that being crone brought, or if she’d buckle under the pressure. Reid was starting to understand that this woman, whether they ever spoke again, was going to change the face of Territory Four, and he wouldn’t be surprised if the other territories didn’t follow suit. He’d listened to her speak, asked probing questions and really listened to the answers. If only others would do the same.
“You know flower, I thought you did a great job.” He told her later, when she’d stepped out onto the back deck for some air and a chance to clear her head.
“But do they believe I can do the things I promised?” She asked, glancing at him. He inhaled deeply off of the cigarette he was smoking and let the smoke out slowly from his lungs.
“Most of them want to believe you, all that’s left is for you to prove you mean the things you say.” He told her slowly as he did a quick scan of the minds still inside the house. She smiled up at him again.
“I honestly hope I can too. I don’t want to let them down.” She confided, leaning against the railing and looking out at the moonlight reflected on the water.
“Can I give you a piece of advice?” He asked carefully. He’d been quiet on the topic of leadership, but after their conversation earlier in the day, there was something he wanted to tell her.
“Sure.” She turned her attention to him as he joined her at the railing, his cigarette put out in the ashtray by where he’d been standing.
“You are the Crone of Territory Four. The youngest ever.” She nodded, but waited silently for him to continue. “When I want something to be done, I don’t pander and try to convince those I want to do it. I tell them it needs to be done, and then wait for my orders to be carried out. I outline the plan if need be, but I don’t let them question me. I am in charge.” He paused and looked at her. “Now obviously I listen to my maker, my sage, and my crone and of course my Grand-mère, but I don’t let others question it. You need to do that. Obviously our positions are slightly different.” Freesia chuckled and nodded her head. Reid couldn’t help the smile on his face. “But don’t let them feel like you have to convince them of anything. You’re their leader. So lead. Let them figure out how to do as you say.”
“Reid, that’s all well and good, but I need the council on my side.” She told him with a sigh.
“I know that you do. So answer their questions, but make sure you leave no doubt that these are things you will accomplish with or without them. You’re the crone. You can replace them as you see fit, remember? And that is a completely different council, is it not?”
“It is.” She said with a grin.
“Then they need to know they either get on your side, or you’ll find someone that will.”
“That is helpful. Now let me give you a piece of advice.” Reid raised an eyebrow and turned to face her, leaning his back on the rail and glancing at the party still happening inside. “You need to find someone that can question you. That can make you think about things in a slightly different way. That can do that, and hold you responsible without overstepping their place in your life.”
“Isn’t that why you’re married?” He asked with a grin.
“While Calkin is great for that in our personal life, I’m still searching for someone with a slightly different perspective that can keep me balanced for work. You need to find both I think.”
“Akina keeps me balanced.” He said confidently, though he couldn’t ignore the small kernel of doubt that was starting to bloom in his heart.
“Does she? Or does she punish you for not doing the things she wants you to do just like she tells you?” With that Freesia turned and walked back into the party.
Reid stood there thinking about what she said, and what she hadn’t. When this was all over, he thought he might go see his sister for a long weekend. See if she could shed some light on some of the feelings Freesia was bringing to light. He watched her mingle for a few more minutes before he shook his head. The woman was amazing, and every bit as commanding as he himself was, even without the crown.
[That’s all for this month’s character takeover. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to leave questions in the comments and I’ll make sure Reid answers them. Have a great new year my loves. Be safe, make good choices, and don’t eat yellow snow. Happy New Year.]
Short Story Saturday is back! Sorry it’s taken so long to get back on track. Things have been a bit crazy the last year. After all of the ups and downs over the past year, I’m finally getting back to what I love. That includes Short Story Saturday. We’re going to continue the story of Port Shadeau, and if you haven’t read the first two entries (or just need a refresher) check out the first two parts here: Unwrapped, Leftovers. So now that we’re back and you’re all caught up, let’s get this show on the road! Here’s the newest installment of Port Shadeau, and be warned, this one is longer than the last two. I’d apologize but I’m not actually sorry. Enjoy this while you’re drinking your coffee and then have a great weekend you guys!
The following week had been long and frustrating for Ailee. Due to a scheduling conflict, she ended up working more hours than she’d planned and hadn’t had much time to spend with her new friend. Marlowe, it seemed, was having the same problems but they’d caught a few minutes here and there throughout the week. She was surprised when Marlowe appeared in the doorway to her office Friday afternoon.
“I know you’re almost done, you have plans tonight?” She asked, a smile on her face.
“No, thought I’d just relax, this week has been crazy. Melodie’s sister is in Initiate right now, so she’s been out most of the week. I get it, but I forgot to plan for that so I’ve been picking up the slack.” Ailee told her, turning in her chair to look at her friend.
“We’re going out. Meet at mine around eight, and dress cute. We’re getting drinks with Wilder and some of his work friends. It’s time you met some new people.” Marlowe told her decisively.
“I don’t know Mar, I kind of want to just relax.”
“Nope. I won’t take no for an answer. You have to come along and save me from these damn Diffusers. All they talk about is fire.” She told her, rolling her eyes. “Eight. Don’t flake, I know where you live.” She added before turning and walking away before Ailee could respond. Ailee shook her head but got back to work.
Promptly at eight, Ailee knocked on Marlowe’s door. It was pulled open by a man with medium length dark hair and kind eyes. He smiled and pulled the door open wider, inviting her inside without words.
“You must be Ailee, Marlowe told me you were coming. I’m Wilder.” He said, holding his hand out once he’d closed the door behind her.
“Nice to finally meet you. Our work schedules have been crazy, it’s amazing we haven’t met before now.” She told him, shaking his hand before following him into the apartment proper.
“I agree, seems odd. It’s been a few weeks now hasn’t it?” He asked as he leaned against the counter in the kitchen.
“Something like that, zip me up.” Marlowe said, coming into the room and turning her back to her husband. Wilder smiled at Ailee before zipping the back of Marlowe’s dress up. He placed a kiss on her shoulder as he smoothed his hands down her arms.
“You look great.” He told her with a grin as she stepped away and turned to face him.
“So do you.” She commented as she leaned forward to kiss him quickly. “Ready?” She asked, pulling away and looking over at Ailee.
“I guess. I have no idea where we’re going.” Ailee told her with a grin.
“You’ll love it. Come on.” She told her as she moved toward the door. Wilder helped her into her coat before the three of them were out the door.
It didn’t take long to walk down to the bar they were headed to. Ailee listened to Marlowe and Wilder talk the entire way and she could see why they were so perfect for one another in a matter of minutes. She envied the way he looked at his wife, she used to have that, or so she’d thought. She wanted it again.
The bar was warm when they made their way inside and toward a table that already had a few people gathered around it.
“Hey guys, this is Ailee.” Wilder motioned toward her as everyone greeted the new arrivals.
“Hi.” Ailee said shyly, slipping her coat from around her shoulders and draping it across the back of a chair.
“Ailee, meet Milo, Noah, Travis, Declan and his wife Daisy, and Max. Where’s Lexie?” He added pointing each person out in turn.
“Lex had to work late, but Kestral texted, he’ll be here soon.” Max told him with a grin before taking another drink of his beer.
“Good.” Wilder helped Marlowe hang her jacket before he turned to head to the bar. “Ailee, anything specific you want?” He asked pausing before he got too far.
“Whatever you’re getting Marlowe will be fine.” She told him with a smile. She liked Wilder. She turned to Marlowe as the rest of the table got back to conversation. It wasn’t long before they’d started talking to Daisy and the three of them were deeply entrenched in a conversation about one of their favorite authors when a beer was set down in front of Ailee. She nodded her thank you at Wilder before continuing with her point.
They were so caught up in their own conversation Ailee almost missed the arrival of the last of their party. He had sat down next to her and she probably wouldn’t have noticed him at all if he hadn’t accidentally hit her with his elbow as he settled into his chair.
“Sorry.” He said briefly, before turning back to Noah and continuing whatever he’d been saying before. Ailee just smiled slightly and turned back to her own conversation. It wasn’t until Ailee stood up to go get the next round of drinks for herself and Marlowe that she was faced with the stranger again.
She made her way toward the bar and waited for her turn with the bartender. While she waited, someone stepped up closer to her near the bar as well.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He said. She looked up at him, and smiled. It was the man who’d been sitting next to her at the table.
“Not a problem. You’re friends with Wilder right?” She asked him, keeping one eye on the bartender.
“Yeah, Kestral.” He said, holding out his hand.
“Ailee. I live next door to him and work with Marlowe.” She told him as she took her hand back.
“Right, he’s mentioned you a couple of times. So you guys finally met then?”
“Yeah.” She smiled. “I can’t believe it took so long.”
“It does seem rather ridiculous if you live next door.” Kestral smiled at her. “So what brought you to Port Shadeau?”
“My dad died and I needed a change of scenery, so I’m here.” She said with a shrug.
“I’m sorry about your dad.” He said softly, touching her elbow.
“Thanks. I try not to think about it too much, but it is what brought me here.” She shook herself visibly. “So, what brought you to Port Shadeau?”
“I grew up in New York, actually, but wanted something different. So I moved out here about six years ago. I love it here.” The bartender interrupted them then and they placed their orders before going back to their conversation. “So what do you do?” He asked her while they waited.
“I’m the manager at the coffee shop that’s located inside the Librarie. It’s new for me and I kind of love it.”
“That’s awesome. Is that what your goal is or do you want to do something else?”
“I’m not really sure. What about you? DId you always want to be a Diffuser?” She asked as they accepted their beers from the bartender and started making their way back toward the table.
“Sort of. I’m good with fire, so that kind of makes it the perfect career.”
“So are you a fire then?” She asked as he motioned to let her sit down before he did.
“No, I’m an Elentori, not an Arkane actually.” He said, a small smile on his face as he tipped his bottle to his lips.
“Oh, I didn’t mean to assume.” Ailee said quickly.
“No it’s okay, I work with mostly Arkane so it isn’t a stretch of the imagination.” He told her with a chuckle. Ailee breathed a sigh of relief. Kestral was cute and she didn’t want to offend him so early into their aquiantenship.
“But you like being a Diffuser?” She asked, steering the conversation back on track.
“Yeah, I love it.” He told her, his dimples showing as he smiled wide.
They spent the next two hours talking, and Ailee was surprised when Marlowe tapped her shoulder and told her they were going to head out. She had a knowing grin on her face and Ailee knew she’d get the third degree from her friend the next day.
“If you want to stay and finish your drink I can walk you home.” Kestral told her softly. It seemed he wasn’t any more eager than she was for the night to be over. Ailee smiled wide.
“I’d like that.” She waved at Marlowe as she followed Wilder from the bar. Looking around, it seemed that almost everyone else from their party had left as well and she couldn’t remember when that had happened. It had been a long time since she’d gotten so caught up with someone that she stopped paying attention to the world around her.
“So, we sort of changed the subject earlier and never went back to it.” Kestral started as he held her jacket out for her to slip her arms into a half hour later. “But I think it’s safe to assume you are an Arkane?” He asked, pulling his own jacket on. Ailee smiled.
“Yes I am. An air actually. My gift isn’t really useful for most things, but it works for me.”
“So what is your gift?” He asked as they made their way toward the door.
“I can infuse the air with scent, like magnify it somehow. It works great at the coffee shop, I just make the whole place smell like old books and delicious coffee and everything pretty much sells itself.” She told him with a grin, accepting the arm he held out to her as they ambled their way down the snow-covered sidewalk.
“I bet that comes in handy sometimes, though I can’t imagine it was a good survival skill.”
“Not really.” She agreed with a laugh. “Though it has its advantages.”
“So are you seeing anyone?” He asked. Ailee looked up at him then, and smiled softly at the way he was worrying his lip between his teeth like he wasn’t sure why he’d asked that question.
“No. I was before I moved, but I’m not now.” She watched as he exhaled and smiled down at her, his dimples on display once more.
“Then would I be overstepping if I asked you to dinner next week?”
“I’d love to go.” She told him, squeezing his arm where she still held it.
“You’ll have to give me your number so I can call you later in the week and we can set something up.” He told her with a smile, laying his hand over her own on his arm for a moment.
“I can do that.”
They talked the rest of the way to her apartment, and when he left her at her door, she felt like she was walking on air. For the first time since Gideon had stopped returning her calls, she felt happy. She couldn’t wait to see him again.
Well? What’d you think of this installment? Was the length daunting for a quick weekend read? I’m so excited for where this story is going, I can’t help it. It’s going to be amazing, I hope.
So that’s it for today, go enjoy the sunshine (provided you have some) and make today wonderful. If you haven’t already, sign up for the newsletter as the first one gets posted today. There’s a link at the bottom of the page, but you can also follow this link. Have an amazing day you guys!
I know that it’s been a while since I’ve been here, but there have been a lot of things going on personally the last few months. But here I am, back at it and hopefully there won’t be too many more interruptions.
So we are going to kick off May with a lovely new Short Story Saturday. I’m going to pick up where we left off with Ailee Creed and her time in Port Shadeau. So, enjoy!
Ailee set down the boxes she’d been carrying and wiped her forearm over her brow. A quick glance at the clock as she opened the top box told her she wasn’t too far from the end of her shift. With a smile she went back to unloading the boxes and putting the products on the shelf. When she was finally done, she checked in with her Assistant manager who was working the evening shift, said goodbye to employees still on the clock, and then clocked out.
She made her way downstairs toward where Marlowe was also finishing her shift. Ailee waited, leaned against the end of the counter flipping through a magazine while she finished doing what she was doing. Once Marlowe was done they walked to the back to grab Marlowe’s coat and went out into the city to find something for dinner.
The next couple of days went the same way, and Ailee was happy to finally have a friend. It made her new life in Port Shadeau a little more bearable. After work on Friday, Marlowe and Ailee met up at Marlowe’s for a couple of drinks and to make dinner. Marlowe’s husband Wilder was at work for the weekend and so Marlowe had the apartment to herself. They sat around at the counter and discussed the options for dinner.
“I have a lot of easy stuff because I’m not a big fan of cooking.” Marlowe explained standing in front of her fridge and trying to find something to make for them. “It’s such a difference cooking for me as opposed to cooking when Wilder is home.”
“Just because you make easy food doesn’t mean it has to taste easy.” Ailee said setting her beer on the counter and sliding off of the stool. She moved to stand beside Marlowe.
“I don’t know how.” Marlowe said, shaking her head. Ailee just grinned.
“I can teach you. Let me see what you’ve got in here.” Ailee spent a couple of minutes looking through Marlowe’s fridge and cupboards. She amassed a small collection of things on the counter and then looked at Marlowe. “Okay. Let me grab a couple of seasonings from my place that you don’t have, and I’m going to teach you to make something really delicious that isn’t complicated at all.” She said with a grin.
After she grabbed the few things from her apartment that she needed, she got to work in the kitchen teaching Marlowe how to make Chicken Penne. They spent the time laughing and talking and Ailee was happy to really feel like she had a new friend here. When the food was done, Marlowe was impressed about how easy it was to cook and it smelled amazing. They sat down and shared a good meal with a lot of laughs and had a great evening. When dinner was done, they worked together to clean the kitchen and pack up the leftovers.
“So, I’m gonna take these home with me since I don’t have to work tomorrow.” Ailee told her with a grin picking up the container off the counter.
“Oh no, those are staying here. I have to show Wilder I can actually cook.” Marlowe told her with a grin as she attempted to swipe at the container in Ailee’s hand.
The girls devolved into a silly play fight over the leftovers before Ailee let Marlowe take them with a proud smile. She went home feeling happy that she had taught her friend the benefits of good food. Marlowe waited no time in taking the leftovers down to the fire house to share with Wilder. It took only one bite before he had shared with a couple of friends, offering a bite or two a piece. He was proud of his wife. When Marlowe got home, she had texted Ailee and asked her to do weekly cooking lessons, and Ailee was happy to agree. It was something wonderful and she was happy to be settling into her new life in Port Shadeau and settled into bed that night with a smile on her face.
Hello all! Happy New Year! For at least the next three months, I will be writing about a set of characters from Port Shadeau Washington. They are a settlement of Arkane people that blend into the Seattle cityscape seamlessly. Ailee Creed is the main character, at least for the next three months. Come join me on this ride and welcome to the 2021 version of Short Story Saturday!
Ailee sat down on her couch and stared at the list in front of her. She had a few days before she started work, and she planned to make the most of it. It was a brand new year and she wasn’t going to waste it wondering why Gideon had gone silent just before Christmas. He wasn’t returning her phone calls, or her texts, and now that the new year had rung, and his gifts still sat under the tree. She shook her head to clear the thoughts of the past from her mind and focused on her list. She wanted to go hiking, see the city a little more, and relax before Monday. The long holiday weekend would lend nicely to being able to get lost in a couple of crowds, blend in with the Jejune and get lost in Port Shadeau.
Port Shadeau was one of the oldest Arkane settlements on the West Coast. It was built around Jejune and was now the oldest part of Seattle. It had been like that forever, the Jejune and the Arkane blending seamlessly with the Jejune none the wiser. It worked out for everyone involved and Ailee was happy to finally be here. After her father had died, she’d had to get out of Cheveaux. Gideon hadn’t understood, they’d argued about it, but in the end, she’d moved anyway.
Just before Christmas she’d moved into a small studio apartment above a bookstore named the Librarie. Ailee had felt at home there immediately. A few days after moving in, she’d found out that the little cafe in the bookstore was hiring, and she’d jumped at the chance to work there.
Her life was finally falling into place. As best as it could at least. She’d stayed up late the night before to ring in the new year with a glass of plum wine and then gone to bed. Now it was time for adventure. Ailee grabbed her list and shoved it into the pocket of her bag before setting off into the city.
She spent hours exploring the city and when she fell into bed that night, she was excited to go hiking the next day. She was planning to take her camera and was hoping to get some good shots she could frame and put on her wall behind her table. Before she fell asleep she texted Gideon, just on the off chance that he’d respond.
Ailee: I hope that you had a good day. Just wanted to tell you that I love you and I miss you.
She waited a few minutes and when there was no response, she plugged her phone in and rolled over to go to sleep. She woke up the next morning and drank her cup of coffee before she left to go hiking. She drove a little outside the city and the recent snowfall made the couple hour hike beautiful. She got some good shots and was able, thanks to her tripod, to get some really good pictures of herself while playing in the snow. She went back into town as the sun was setting. She found a great place to eat dinner and managed to catch a couple of shots on her camera of herself watching snowflakes fall under a streetlight. One of the things she hoped to find was a competent person to help with her amateur photography.
When she got home that night, she took a hot shower and then made herself a cup of hot cocoa. While she waited for the milk to boil, she sent another text to Gideon, just to see if he’d respond. She curled up on the couch and read for a little while. Once her cocoa was gone, she carried the cup to the kitchen just to have an excuse to stretch her legs. She was irritated that she still hadn’t heard from Gideon. She wanted to believe that she’d given up on the whole idea of their relationship, but it wasn’t so easy to let the last couple of years go. They’d been fine, everything was great up until her dad had died unexpectedly. Things had been rough and when she felt like she wanted a change of scenery, she’d asked him to come with her. He hadn’t wanted anything to change. Ailee had needed nothing but change.
Walking back toward the couch, she passed the Christmas tree she planned to take down the next morning. She stopped and looked down at the gifts still sitting under the tree. She had spent so much time shopping for the right gifts. Carefully wrapping them with tags and ribbon. Making sure that they conveyed every bit of love and devotion she had for him. She paced away from the tree and toward the couch and tossed her phone down onto it. She turned back around and looked at the tree again. She bit her lip and considered what to do.
All at once the overwhelming anger she thought she was over consumed her again. She took a couple of steps and snatched the largest gift from under the tree. In a couple of steps she stood before the small fireplace in her apartment and tossed the gift into it. She felt satisfaction in watching it burn. She turned around and grabbed the two smaller gifts and tossed them into the fire as well before she sat down on the couch and watched them burn. Once they had burned out, she stared at the fire a little longer. Then she went over and did her best to put the fire out for the night.
Once it was done, she crawled into bed and slept better than she had since Gideon had stopped responding to her. The next morning, over coffee, she planned out how she was going to pack up her Christmas decorations. She spent most of the morning doing just that and once she was finished she was ready to relax. Needing a change of scenery, she went downstairs to the bookstore to wander around a little bit. She ended up picking up a couple of new books and felt like wandering a bit more. She liked the atmosphere in the bookstore and couldn’t wait to start working.
When she got to the counter she smiled and had a great interaction with the girl behind the counter. She seemed to be about her age and she hoped maybe they’d get along once she actually started working. With her new purchases in hand, she went back upstairs. Later that evening she went out for a walk. She had located the four closest Drift points in case she wanted to go anywhere, and she enjoyed walking around the back alleys and places off the main streets. It might seem a little dangerous to some, but this was Port Shadeau, crime was dealt with differently here. There wasn’t much of it, as you never quite knew what you were going to walk into. Once it was fully dark, she wandered back to her apartment.
Work the next day was a crash course in managing the small, but busy cafe. By lunch time she wasn’t sure she was going to remember everything, but the customers were friendly and the other employees were great too. The former manager had been Jejune, and the mostly Arkane staff was happy to finally have an Arkane manager who would understand their unique circumstances a little better. One of the employees had just completed her Initiate the spring before and was still a little jumpy if something got dropped. Another of the part-time barista’s had a sister getting ready for Initiate in a couple of weeks. She was a nervous wreck and Ailee knew she’d have to see how she was feeling closer to the time to know if she could handle the counter or if she needed to just be wiping off the small tables and helping out with the bookstore cleanup as well.
Around lunch time she was introduced to the young dark haired woman from the bookstore that had rang her up the day before. Marlowe Lark was about her age and lived upstairs in the other loft apartment with her husband, Wilder. Marlowe managed the bookstore and loved her job. After they both left for the day, Marlowe invited her to go out and get some dinner, apparently her husband was working late.
“So how do you like Port Shadeau so far?” Marlowe asked her as they walked down the street toward Marlowe’s favorite little restaurant.
“I like it so far. It’s been just me for a couple of weeks so it’s kind of nice to have someone else to talk to.” Ailee told her with a small smile.
“I wish I’d known sooner, we could have hung out for New Years. Wild had to work that night so it was just me and a couple of friends. I could have introduced you.” She said with a smile, as she tucked her dark hair behind her ear.
“That would have been nice. So how long have you lived here?”
“A couple of years. We like it here. We moved a bit after Initiate, while Wilder was climbing through the ranks. But we’ve been here long enough that we think we might stay.”
“What does he do?”
“He’s a Diffuser. Only, they don’t have a Diffuser station here, so they work with the regular fire fighters. The local house is mostly Arkane, but there is at least two in every house in the city.”
“That’s cool. Port Shadeau is so different from almost every other place. It’s so weird to mix so easily with the Jejune, it almost makes me wonder why we have to hide at all.”
“I get that, but look what happened to the Vampires when they came out a hundred years ago. There are so many restrictions for them, I’m surprised there isn’t a national registry for them.”
“For all we know there might be one, but it’s so tightly controlled by the Crones and Sages that the Jejune will never hear about it.”
“True. It’s probably for the best. I knew a Vampire once, I can’t imagine having to go through that stuff.”
“Yeah, me neither. What if we had to register every time we moved? It would get taxing.”
“True.” Marlowe nodded as she held the door open for Ailee.
They had a nice meal and the conversation flowed easily between them as they walked back toward home. They said goodnight and Ailee was excited to see her again the next day. It might seem insignificant, but she finally felt like she’d made a friend. For the first time since she’d moved there, she felt justified in the decision. She had made a friend and was hopeful to make more.
Once upon a time I decided that for Short Story Saturday I was going to follow a list of prompts. One of these prompts that actually turned out great, was writing a scene with no dialogue. This is especially challenging for me as I am great at dialogue. I love writing dialogue. One of my favorite parts of any story is the interactions between two characters. When I wrote this, it was difficult to write something and convey an emotion without dialogue for me. I have grown as an author since then, but this stood out to me as something good. I hope that you enjoy this flashback to me as a writer in 2014. Enjoy.
Christian sat in the dimly lit living room of his top floor loft, gazing out at the city through the floor to ceiling picture window. He rolled the liquid in his cup back and forth before bringing it to his lips and feeling the familiar burn of the whiskey slide down his throat. He may be located in the center of the city, a city currently bustling with Saturday night life, but he felt as alone as the ice cubes in the now empty glass.
Feeling the need to get up and move, he stood and crossed the room in quick deliberate strides. After refilling his glass, he paced back across the large room. Agitation was crawling under his skin and taking root; he didn’t understand it. Normally he was poised, self-assured, calculating, but when it came to her, he was lost. It was as if he was a fifteen year old boy all over again. He was certain this woman would be his undoing.
It wasn’t as if he’d never been in love before, but this was entirely new. They’d been good friends for two years now. Not once had she effected him like she had the last three months. She was driving him insane. He was no longer the same confident being he had been in her presence. No; now he felt as if he needed to do anything and everything to win her over. But every time he tried, he ended up looking like a bumbling fool; too distracted by her eyes, her hair, and her mouth. Oh God, her mouth, how he longed for her lips to be pressed against his own…
Christian stopped the though in its tracks and downed his drink in one swallow. He had to do something to stop this madness. His sudden inability to communicate the smallest of things to her was the cause of his agitation, that was certain. Wasn’t it? He shook his head in dismay; there he was, second guessing himself again. It seemed to occur more and more these days, and there was only one cause.
Christian shook his head, set his glass in the sink and took himself to bed, before he managed to lose all of his self respect.
Across town, Azaria laid in bed wondering what on earth had happened to Christian lately. They used to hang out a couple of nights a week with co-workers and friends. Grabbing a bite to eat, watching a movie, a drink on Friday evening….now she barely saw him. When she did she him, it was different. Now, instead of long conversations on whatever subject of interest, he was quiet, standoffish, and barely said more than a couple of words at a time. Something had changed between them, she longed to know what was wrong.
Should she tell him that she missed the old him? The confident, funny, intelligent man she’d fallen for when they first met? Had he finally found out how she felt? Could that be the reason for the distance between them? No, she dismissed the thought before fluffing her pillow and wrapping up a little tighter in her blankets.
Whatever Christian’s problem with her was, it was probably better in the long run if she just outright asked him about it. So with a resolve to do just that the very next time she saw him, she closed her eyes and let sleep take her.
Well, I hope you enjoyed that! As always, please enjoy your weekend and be safe out there!
So, this is something that I wrote seven years ago, and if you follow my personal blog at all, you’ll recognize it from there. I’m cross-posting it here because at this moment in time I just do not have the time to write something new for Short Story Saturday. So, for the next few weeks, I will be cross-posting the short stories I’ve already written here. That will give me a little bit of time to get something new to you guys. What with figuring out online school for the kiddos, the launch of my whole writer platform, editing Noctivagus, writing No Ordinary Love, and did I mention that we’re getting ready for Christmas already at work? Yeah, so that’s a thing. I’m just swamped. So please enjoy this short story and tune in next week for another one! Thanks!
I took my order from the clerk at the counter and looked around for somewhere to sit while I waited. I finally found a small table nestled against the windows and surrounded by writers and college students typing furiously on their laptops. Worry creased their brows as impending deadlines loomed in the future.
I unwrapped my scarf and sipped my tea while I gazed out at the bustling street. People rushing to their next destination, not bothering to see the beauty around them. The leaves on the well-manicured trees were aflame with autumn oranges, yellows, and reds. They had only begun to turn and the colors were still vivid. Soon they’d turn brown, die, and fall off, and then the snows would come. I mentally shook myself and took another drink, I needed to keep the dark thoughts away.
The familiar sounds of espresso machines, milk being steamed, and the smell of coffee beans being roasted permeated the small shop and brought comfort to the warmth. The consistent clacking of keys on keyboards added to overall ambiance which helped to ease my apprehension. I let it wrap around me like a cocoon of warmth. Only then did I allow myself to think of him.
It had been three weeks since I’d seen him, and so much had happened in that time. Absently I sipped my tea while I thought of his smile, his eyes, his sense of humor, and mostly how much I missed him. A brief glance at the clock on the wall told me that he was late. Maybe he wouldn’t come at all. He had only reluctantly agreed to meet me here.
With each passing minute, the sound of the ticking clock grew louder. It was like an intrusion on the brief moment of peace I’d found. After a few more minutes, or was it seconds, the clacking keyboards joined the clock in sounding the panic that I’d been stood up. Everywhere I looked, people were staring at me. The pompous writers peering over their screens. The college students thinking how old and washed up I must be, sitting here on my own. The clock was getting louder. My anxiety pushing my heart to an accelerated pace. My pulse echoing the ticking, and accentuating the conversations in the far corners of the shop. Why was everyone staring? Maybe I should go, make it seem as though I was only settling down a moment before I went off again. Save myself the humiliation of him not…
“Sorry I’m late.” he said. His voice breaking into my once warm cocoon that had become a prison.
At that moment everything stopped. All I could hear was the rush of blood in my ears and my shallow breaths. He was standing beside the table, smiling down at me. In his hand he held a bouquet of sunflowers and his own cup.
Well, I hope you enjoyed that. I remember when I wrote it, I wasn’t sure who the characters were, what was happening in their lives or anything else. I’m still not certain I know seven years on. Oh well, they pop up from time to time in my Short Story Saturday submissions, so maybe we can find out together. Well, I’m off, please enjoy what’s left of your weekend my dears!